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Study: Hospice care saves money, reduces hospitalizations


When patients receive hospice care, their hospitalization rate decreases and they incur fewer health costs, according to a new study from the Journal of American Medical Association.

Examining data on almost 40,000 Medicare patients with cancers who died in 2011, half of whom chose hospice care, the researchers found that the hospice patients were less likely to receive expensive and intensive procedures and had fewer hospital stays.

What's more, the patients receiving hospice care for five to eight weeks incurred just more than $56,000 in costs, whereas the patients who weren't in hospice cost almost $75,000.

The difference in cost was a result of the non-hospice patients having more hospitalizations, more stays in intensive care units and more invasive procedures.

"There is a lot of evidence that a lot of people don't have these conversations" about hospice care, Ziad Obermeyer, lead study author and physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters. "So they get sucked into this intense care option without even talking about it."

The JAMA study provides further evidence that palliative care can save money if insurers decide to cover it. An Institute of Medicine report, for example, showed that palliative care can improve outcomes and reduce costs by decreasing hospitalizations and lessening use of acute care services, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

What's more, some insurers are boosting their hospice coverage. For instance, Cambia Health, which owns Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, has created a palliative care program to focus on the value of palliative care in the treatment of its patients.

To learn more:
- read the JAMA study
- see the Reuters article

Related Articles:
IOM wants insurers to pay docs for palliative care
How to cover palliative care in health plans
Cambia Health CEO Mark Ganz on the cutting edge of end-of-life care